The Six Great Ends of the Church: “The Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World”
11/27/2016, First Sunday of Advent
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.
“Actions speak louder than words!” My Dad told me that countless times. I’ve also heard it from coaches, teachers, youth group leaders, and myriad other people in authority.
In this season of national, denominational, political, racial, gender, religious, ethnic, divide – have we all forgotten this proverbial truth? Actions speak louder than words! Our words matter – very much – but when our words and our actions don’t line up, when they disagree or are in conflict, our actions will always be believed over our words.
As I watch the news, or read the paper, or look at Facebook posts – what I see Christians doing versus what we say we believe are very much at odds with each other! What is the world around us supposed to think of our Lord and Savior when all they see of His Church is infighting, name-calling, and blood-letting?
Today is the last Sunday of this six-week series on the Great Ends of the Church, and it is also the First Sunday of Advent – the Season meant to prepare us for Christ’s coming (as a baby in a manger 2,000 years ago and as the King of all kings and Lord of all lords when He returns!).
LPC was chartered in 1907 under the denomination called the Presbyterian Church in North America which adopted the Great Ends in 1910. In 1958, when that denomination united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, giving rise to the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America; this is also when this church’s denomination decided to recognize the giftedness of women in different roles of ministry, and these purposes were incorporated into the new constitution. And when the UPCUSA united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1983, healing a rift that had lasted since the Civil War era, recognizing the sin of prejudice and racism, and the Great Ends were made part of the Constitution (in the Book of Order) of the PC(USA).
These six statements describe a healthy church – one which realizes that not only must the Gospel be preached to all, but that the people who have responded need to be nurtured, that worship correctly done is as important as preserving the truth, that justice for God’s people cannot be ignored, and that our individual lives and our corporate actions should show the world what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. (If you listened closely just then, you heard all Six Great Ends mentioned.)
Your Sermon Notes page lists all six Great Ends of the Church:
- The Proclamation of the Gospel! Where we talked about speaking as well as doing the Gospel.
- The Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God!
- The Maintenance of Divine Worship! In Spirit and in truth – in word and in deed!
- The Preservation of the Truth.
- The Promotion of Social Righteousness. Which includes fighting for justice with words and with actions!
Listen with me as the Apostle Matthew gives us Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and demonstrates the Sixth Great End of the Church: The Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World. Matthew 5:13-16 ….—-
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
The very early Church, in the days right following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, their political culture was no less volatile than ours is. Roman Emperors ready and willing to deport those unwilling to worship him, and execute those willing to defend their rights to worship the only true God!
But the early Church still thrived. Acts 2 tells us that 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Josephus, the great historian from the 2nd Century wrote that the world saw the Christians and said, “Look how they love one another!”
Do we live in a dark time? Are you sort of stuck in a dark funk? Who here is tired of being in pain? Tired of being depressed? Tired of defending your opinion? Who here is nervous about tomorrow? Nervous about the next four years? Nervous for our children or our neighbors or our parents?
Name some things that weigh heavy on you right now:
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. …
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9)
This was written some 600 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But look at the hope these words from the Lord gave to these Israelites.
John tells us, 1 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
He goes on to say that any who receive this “Word”, who believe in His name, have the right to become children of God!
And this same Apostle, in his 1st Epistle (near the end of the New Testament) says: 11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another…. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God…. (I John 3)
Jesus not only says that He loves us. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us!” His actions speak even louder than His words. “We ought, therefore, to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
What does Jesus say in the Sermon on the Mount? Be the salt of the earth. Be the light of the world. By the way we live, exhibiting the Kingdom of Heaven to the World, others have a chance of giving glory to their Father in heaven!
In my personal devotional reading I am in I Peter. Friday’s reading was I Peter 2. Listen to verse 9: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”.
We have been given the Light of the life, we have seen a great light. How will we exhibit the Kingdom of Heaven to the World around us? How will you let the light of Christ shine through you this Advent Season?
The 1st, and most foundational, Great End of the Church is the Proclamation of the Gospel – if there is no Gospel being proclaimed any Social Organization could suffice our church-needs (and maybe even better). Proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.
The 2nd, and right on the heels of the 1st, Great End of the Church is the Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God – if we fail at helping each other grow in our faith & our Christ-likeness, we fail at actually being church!
The 3rd Great End of the Church, the Maintenance of Divine Worship, is what fuels us for righteous living. Do we “worship in spirit and in truth”?
The 4th Great End of the Church is the Preservation of the Truth – Jesus is the (only) way, the (real) truth, and the (eternal) life and no one comes to the Father except through (faith in) Him.
The 5th Great End of the Church is the Promotion of Social Righteousness – What does the Lord require of you? Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with the Lord your God. Failure to work toward making a more just society, where people are treated with equality and love, calls into question our loyalty to the King of kings and Lord of all lords.
And the 6th Great End of the Church is the Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World – living like we believe what we say we believe, in ways that bring the Good News of Jesus, the hope of the Gospel, the light of life, to the dark world around us.
If LPC were to disappear this afternoon – how long before our neighbors would forget who used to meet in the building on Nevada Street between Princeton and Heroy? If we exhibit the Kingdom of Heaven well, they would miss us quickly and deeply.
Our Mission Statement declares that we are a people who:
Know the power and love of God, and
Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, compelling us to
Go in the footsteps of the Holy Spirit, loving and serving others who do not yet
Know the power and love of God….
Did you hear the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World in that? Let’s be that kind of Church!
The 6 Great Ends of the Church: Leader’s Guide; Episode 6; The Fellowship Community; 2016.